Washington D.C., Dec 11, 2017 / 11:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal court has denied relief to the Archdiocese of Washington, in its request for an injunction that would have allowed it to run metro ads encouraging riders to discover the true meaning of Christmas.
“We are disappointed that the federal court denied our emergency request for an injunction to run our ‘Find the Perfect Gift’ Advent ad campaign,” said Ed McFadden, Secretary for Communications for the Archdiocese of Washington.
“While this preliminary ruling that there should be no room made for us on [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority] buses is disappointing, we will continue in the coming days to pursue and defend our right to share the important message of Christmas in the public square.”
The district court’s decision denied emergency relief to the archdiocese after the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) declined to run the ad campaign, citing a 2015 policy which prohibits the promotion or opposition of religion in advertisements.
The archdiocese’s ad shows the Star of Bethlehem and reads “Find the perfect gift,” advertising the website www.findtheperfectgift.org and the hashtag #PerfectGift.
A version of the ad which includes a Bible verse is already posted at numerous city bus stops, which are controlled by the District Department of Transportation, not WMATA. The bus ads have been running for nearly a decade, and reach areas of the city which do not have many bus shelters.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson stated in her decision that she declined to grant the archdiocese relief from WMATA’s decision because she does not believe its case will succeed on religious freedom or free speech grounds.
“The advertisement does not seek to address a general, otherwise permissible topic from a religious perspective — the sole purpose of directing the public to www.findtheperfectgift.org is to promote religion. The website declares: ‘JESUS is the perfect gift. [F]ind the perfect gift of God’s love this Christmas’,”she wrote.
Denver, Colo., Dec 10, 2017 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- This week, TIME Magazine announced a group of women and men as their collective Person of the Year.
What do these people have in common? They are what TIME called “The Silence Breakers” - people who have blown the whistle on sexual assault and abuse within the workplace, largely in the industries of film, politics, and media.
In recent months an avalanche of abuse allegations have been brought to light against powerful figures, starting most notably with a piece in the New York Times in which several women accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. This sparked a flood of men and women coming forward with other allegations of abuse against numerous people in positions of power.
“These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results: nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced. In some cases, criminal charges have been brought,” TIME reported.
Not long ago, the Catholic Church in the United States was reeling from its own sex abuse crisis. In the early 2000s, reporters at the Boston Globe broke the story of a former priest who was accused of molesting more than 100 boys over 30 years, which led to a large-scale uncovering of thousands more allegations of abuse in dioceses throughout the country.
Since then, the Church has taken care to provide numerous resources to such victims, and develop robust child protection policies.
Edward Mechmann, director of public policy and the safe environment office for the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA that the “silence breakers” who came forward and continue to come forward with accusations of abuse by clergy and Church personnel are key in maintaining a safe environment in the Church.
“I think the one thing we have to make sure we understand is who the whistleblowers are, and for the most part, the whistleblowers are victims,” Mechmann said.
“As much as the outside observers like the Boston Globe and the media in general contributed to our awareness of the scope of the problem, we would really be nowhere unless we had some of these courageous victims coming forward, because without them, we would have many more men in service who are victimizers,” he added.
It is especially important that victims come forward in order to protect others from abuse, he noted, because in some cases, abusers have victimized numerous people over the span of many years.
Recently, the Church has seen victims coming forward “much more willingly now, because they see that we’re serious, they see that we’re not going to victimize them again, and they see concrete results” such as accused persons being removed from ministry, he said.
“The first and most important thing we do is we listen to them, and I can’t tell you how important that is,” Mechmann said.
“So many people that come in to see us are afraid, they’ve been victimized, they’re afraid they’re going to be victimized again, and just the fact that we listen to them is just an enormously healing thing,” he said.
Besides listening to victims, Mechmann said the Church also provides support through counseling and through talking with victims about the Church’s internal processes for dealing with cases of abuse.
“And we stay in contact with them, if they want to stay in contact with us, we walk with them,” he added.
Dr. Benjamin Keyes, a Catholic psychologist and Director for the Center for Trauma and Resiliency Studies at Divine Mercy University, told CNA that supporting and encouraging victims who come forward is of the utmost importance.
“There’s a whole lot of relief that someone has finally heard the story...they’re no longer isolated with the information, and how well they fare afterwards really depends on what happens around them,” he said. “Are they supported, are there people in their network, whether it's family, friends, or co-workers, that really understand and really support them in the courage that it takes to do this?”
Sometimes it can takes months or even years for victims of abuse to break the silence on what happened to them, Keyes said, because there is usually “a lot of embarrassment, a lot of shame involved, and most people, women in particular, don’t want to expose that to the public or to others, even to those who are close to (them),” he said.
The fear of retaliation or retribution is also something that can keep victims from coming forward, especially if the abuse came from someone who is in a position of power over the victim, Keyes noted.
For these reasons, victims need encouragement and support from the Church in order to feel comfortable coming forward.
“The Church can be supportive, especially in the parishes, (by) making it safe for (whistleblowers) to be who they are, by acknowledging the courage that it took for them to do that, and to be supportive vocally within the body of the Church so that people hear that the Church is supporting it,” he said.
Supporting victims also involves “making sure that they stay networked into not only the activities that they’ve been involved with, but that they stay networked into the body of the Church, so that they don’t walk away,” he added.
The parish priest, as well as members of the parish community, are especially key in making victims feel welcomed and supported, he noted, which can be done simply by including them and befriending them.
“We’re taught in the Bible to love and to love unconditionally, and this is part of that,” Keyes said.
“It’s embracing the broken places and binding up the suffering and reaching out to the broken-hearted, and we’re called as Christians, not just as counselors, to do that,” he added.
Since the sex abuse crisis in the Church in the United States, the bishops have put into place numerous policies and practices to protect victims, and especially children from sexual abuse, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Charter for Child and Youth Protection, which calls for an annual audit and report of all the dioceses in the country.
The Church has also implemented safe environment trainings that call for a zero-tolerance policy of abuse in Church environments.
“I think a lot of what’s happening is really good,” Mechmann said, regarding the silence breakers in media and politics who have recently come forward.
“Maybe the world as a whole could learn a little bit from the way that we have handled this, in terms of creating a clear corporate culture of zero tolerance. Transparency is at the heart of what we’ve done, and I hope that some of these other industries can do the same.”
Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2017 / 03:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops are encouraging Catholics to observe the upcoming Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a day of solidarity with immigrants.
In the nation’s capital, a 12:10 p.m. Mass at St. Peter's Church will mark the Dec. 12 feast day. The Mass will be celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville of Washington, D.C.
Additionally, more than 55 events – including prayers services, Masses, and processions – will be held throughout the U.S. this month. These events, the bishops’ conference said, will honor Our Lady of Guadalupe and will “seek to honor the accomplishments, hopes, fears, and needs of all families who have come to the U.S. seeking a better life.”
“As we enter the Advent season and Christmas approaches, we are reminded of the unique role and importance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a unifier and peacebuilder for communities,” said Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the migration committee at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“We honor her role as protectress of families, including those families separated and far from home,” he said in a Dec. 7 statement.
The conference is also offering resources for parishes looking to accompany migrants, including Our Lady of Guadalupe prayer cards and informational material. Other suggestions include ways to incorporate the intentions of the migrant community in parish prayer services, social media sharing, and efforts to support government policies such Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and the unborn, appeared to St. Juan Diego on the Hill of Tepeyac in Mexico City in 1531, during a time of conflict between the Spanish and the indigenous peoples.
Our Lady took the appearance of a pregnant native woman, wore clothing in the style of the indigenous community, and spoke to Juan Diego in the native language of Nahuatl.
She asked Juan Deigo to appeal to the local bishop to build a church on the site of the apparition, stating she wanted a place where she could reveal to the people the compassion of her son. Initially turned away by the bishop, Diego returned to site asking Our Lady for a sign to prove the authenticity of her message.
She instructed him to gather the Castilian roses that he found blooming on the hillside, despite the fact that it was winter, and present them to the Spanish bishop. Juan Diego filled his cloak – known as a tilma – with the flowers. When he presented them to the bishop, he found that an image of Our Lady was miraculously imprinted upon his tilma.
Today, nearly 500 years later, the bishops said, we should still remember Mary’s words to Juan Diego: “Let your face and heart not be troubled, don’t be afraid … Am I not here who am your mother?”
The bishops’ statement said many immigrants from the Americas have relied on Our Lady of Guadalupe’s intercession for safety during their migrant journey. The statement included a prayer requesting her protection over the most vulnerable.
Washington D.C., Dec 8, 2017 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- With the blessing of its final mosaic, America’s Basilica – The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. – is finally complete after nearly a century of construction and adornment.
“This magnificent tribute in stone, glass, marble mosaic to Mary, Mother of Jesus, Mother of God and our Mother, invites all of us to recognize not only the special role of Mary in our life but the unique glory that is hers in her Immaculate Conception,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington in his Dec. 8 homily before the dedication of the basilica’s new Trinity Dome mosaic.
Blessing of Trinity Dome by Card. Kevin Farrell and @Cardinal_Wuerl at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception @MarysShrine pic.twitter.com/1V6IRYqOJz
— Addie Mena (@AddieMMena) December 8, 2017 Cardinal Wuerl blessed the dome with incense during Mass for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life attended the dedication as an envoy on behalf of Pope Francis and presented the cardinal and the rector of the Basilica, Msgr. Walter Rossi, with a letter of Apostolic Blessing from the Pope for the blessing.
The new dome and its mosaic, which depicts the Trinity, Mary, and nearly twenty saints and blessed who share a connection with either the Americas or the National Shrine itself, is the capstone which finishes 97 years of construction and decoration of the Basilica and its interior. Five cardinals, 23 bishops, nearly 90 priests, and over 4,000 people gathered to celebrate the event. Also present at the event were Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Callista Gingrich.
At @MarysShrine in DC for the Feast Day and also the dedication of the final piece of the National Basilica: the Trinity Dome pic.twitter.com/Akru6AN6ft
— Addie Mena (@AddieMMena) December 8, 2017 The construction of a National Shrine to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception was announced in 1918 and construction began in 1920. “People were invited all over the country to contribute in whatever way they could,” Cardinal Wuerl explained, and “some donated some pieces of old jewelry and others donated some precious stones.”
After the completion of the Crypt Church in 1931, construction on the Upper Church was paused for the Great Depression and World War II, but resumed in 1945. The Church’s structure was completed in 1959.
Since then, different side chapels depicting a variety of Marian apparitions, scenes from Mary’s life, and other mosaics on the ceilings and walls have been completed. In addition, St. John Paul II dedicated the church as a basilica in 1979, and both Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have visited the shrine during their pontificates.
During his September 2015 visit to the shrine for canonization of Junipero Serra, Pope Francis blessed the first section of the Trinity Dome mosaic. The largest dome in the entire shrine, the mosaic contains more than 14 million pieces of handmade Venetian Glass. The artwork for the dome was designed by studios in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and then fabricated in Italy into smaller puzzle-like sections. After being shipped over to the United States, the mosaic was then installed section by section onto the “crown jewel” of the shrine.
During his homily, Wuerl recalled an early gathering of United States bishops which chose the Blessed Mother of the Immaculate Conception to be the patroness for the young nation. “She is the supreme model of what our faith should be,” the cardinal said. “She was the vessel of the incarnation.”
The cardinal pointed to the new dome’s many pieces coming together as one piece of art, drawing upon its reflection of the unity within the universal Church as well the many different cultures that have come together in the United States.
“Just as there are chapels throughout this Basilica reflecting national heritages, ethnic backgrounds, all proclaiming in unison ‘Hail Mary,’ so, too, do we look across this great Church of God and see out of so many one great faith family,” Wuerl reflected.
Following his homily, Farrell read a special blessing from Pope Francis. Through his envoy, the Pope expressed his wish that all who gaze on Mary “show forth special love for the Church of Christ and the Gospel, even in our own age, and may distinguish themselves by their spiritual constancy.” Farrell also said that the Pope asks that the faithful consider “ the great honor and great gift that we have received from God’s mercy and God’s bounty.”
In addition to completing construction of the shrine, the blessing of the Trinity Dome is the first of a series of preparations for the upcoming 100th anniversary celebrations for the foundation of the basilica. A full series of centennial celebrations will take place around 2020.
Ventura, Calif., Dec 8, 2017 / 04:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The massive wildfires of California have drawn calls for prayer and assistance from the U.S. bishops, as Catholic Charities affiliates in the state work to aid victims.
“I am sure all the faithful join me in saying: we stand ready to help in the recovery,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said Dec. 8.
Dan Grimm, Santa Barbara/Ventura regional director for Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, also called for prayers.
“We are praying for a quick end to this 'trial by fire' but so grateful for the generosity of so many coming to the aid of their brothers and sisters in Christ,” he told CNA.
Six fires currently affect the state, having burned nearly 160,000 acres. About 190,000 people have been forced from their homes as over 5,700 firefighters combat the flames.
The worst blaze, the Thomas Fire, started late Monday near Santa Paula, Calif. It has burned 132,000 acres, about 206 square miles. In its first day, it spread at a rate of one acre per second.
Wind gusts are expected to continue to fan the flames through Sunday, CNN reports.
Calling for prayer, Cardinal DiNardo noted that on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Catholics “commit ourselves to the loving protection of Mary the Mother of God and patroness of America.”
“Let us remember, especially, her sons and daughters in danger from the terrible wildfires in California, both those whose homes are in the fire’s path and those courageous first responders and firefighters who are putting their lives at risk,” he said.
Grimm reflected on the response to the wildfires.
“The effect of the wildfires has been devastating, but people are responding with faith and generosity even before the flames have stopped, helping those displaced temporarily or permanently with food, water, clothing, bedding and other personal necessities,” he said.
“Catholic Charities has been one of the collection points for this great outpouring of generosity and we’re working extra to receive, store and distribute while taking care of our regular clients, both working low-income and homeless people,” he continued.
Grimm said the Red Cross and local cities have been “great” at running evacuation centers and first response operations.
“Now we are helping people as they regroup, return to clean up and protect their homes, and deal with lack of power, heat, safe water and adequate food,” the Catholic Charities official said.
The Catholic Charities of Los Angeles website, at catholiccharitiesla.org, is collecting funds to aid relief.
Catholic Charities’ Ventura Community Services Center is accepting in-kind donations for the victims of the Ventura County fire, while Catholic Charities’ Guadalupe Community Center is taking in-kind donations for victims of the Sylmar/Santa Clarita fire.
Grimm said the Ventura center in the course of one day received food, clothing and personal items that filled the client reception room. These donated goods are planned to be moved to a temporary distribution center in Casita Springs, staffed by Boy Scouts, so that residents in need may have easier access to them.
“As those whose homes were partially or completely destroyed seek to restart their lives, Catholic Charities is helping to find short-term housing,” he said.
The charities’ Santa Barbara thrift store will provide low- or no-cost furniture, clothing and household goods. The archdiocese’s Cardinal McIntyre Fund and a special fund for victims will help address uninsured housing repair and replacement costs.
Cardinal DiNardo made specific prayer recommendations, saying: “Please find a moment today, whether after Mass or while gathered as a family around the Advent wreath, to pray a Rosary in gratitude for Mary’s gifts to humanity and entrusting to her protection our sisters and brothers in the fire’s path.”
Washington D.C., Dec 8, 2017 / 03:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a formal investigation of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of abortions, for their role in the alleged sale of baby body parts.
“The Justice Department’s investigation of Planned Parenthood is a major turning point in the battle to hold the nation’s largest abortion business accountable,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said Dec. 8.
“Evidence shows Planned Parenthood sought to squeeze every last opportunity for cash from the sale of hearts, brains, lungs, and livers of aborted children… that ends now,” Dannenfelser continued.
The Justice Department confirmed Dec. 7 they were formally looking into allegations against Planned Parenthood for the illegal sale of aborted baby body parts.
The investigation comes two years after undercover journalist David Daleiden released footage of Planned Parenthood employees negotiating the price and monetary compensation of fetal tissue from aborted babies. The footage also includes conversations from representatives of StemExpress, a company that provides biological material for medical research company.
“Over two years ago, citizen journalists at the Center for Medical Progress first caught Planned Parenthood’s top abortion doctors in a series of undercover videos callously and flippantly negotiating the sale of tiny baby hearts, lungs, livers and brains,” said Daleiden Dec. 8, according to Fox News.
“It is time for public officials to finally hold Planned Parenthood and their criminal abortion enterprise accountable under the law,” he continued.
While federal law allows compensation for fetal tissue to be used for research purposes, the amount of money received from clinics is not allowed to be of “valuable consideration,” and should only cover the costs of transportation and preservation.
Planned Parenthood and other clinics were recommended to the Justice Department for investigation by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in December 2016, after publishing the “Human Fetal Tissue Research: Context and Controversy” report.
Grassley reported that the committee found “substantial evidence” suggesting that Planned Parenthood and other parties “may have violated” the law by charging more money for fetal tissue and baby body parts than was actually recommended.
Stephen Boyd, the Justice Department assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, originally requested the unredacted documents from the Senate Judiciary Committee from the 2016 report. Last month, the FBI additionally requested these documents for investigative purposes.
“The Department of Justice appreciates the offer of assistance in obtaining these materials, and would like to request the Committee provide unredacted copies of records contained in the report, in order to further the Department’s ability to conduct a thorough and comprehensive assessment of that report based on the full range of information available,” stated Boyd, according to Fox News.
Planned Parenthood has denied accusations of breaking the law.
Washington D.C., Dec 8, 2017 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A report from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that abortion rates in the country are at a historic low since the nationwide legalization of abortion in 1973.
According to the study, abortion rates have fallen 22 percent between the years of 2005-2014. In 2014, the CDC cited 653,639 performed abortions, while over 1.4 million abortions took place in 1990.
“The CDC report indicates the percentage of abortion rates declined across all race, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds, which means pro-lifers are continuing to make great strides in protecting women and the unborn child,” Kathleen Neher, the president of the National Catholic Social Workers Association, told CNA.
The study included both surgical abortions and chemical abortions, which include abortifacient pills that end a pregnancy before 8 weeks gestation.
A number of different factors are playing into the overall decline in abortions. The CDC reported that “the proportion of pregnancies in the United States that were unintended decreased from 51 percent in 2008 to 45 percent during 2011–2013.” It pointed to increased use of long-acting contraceptives such as IUD and hormonal implants as one reason for this decrease.
However, another factor is the declining birthrate in the U.S. The National Center for Health Statistics found that the number of babies delivered in the U.S. has declined by about 1 percent over the past few years. It said that 3,941,109 babies were born in the U.S. in 2016, which was 37,388 fewer babies than were born in 2015.
Fertility rates hit a record low in the U.S. in 2016, bringing the number of births to 62.0 per 1,000 women, compared to the previous 62.5 births.
“People are choosing less frequently to be parents, and women who are pregnant are choosing less frequently to abort the baby,” said James Studnicki, a statistics expert from the Charlotte Lozier Institute, according to The Hill.
While Neher considers the overall decline of abortions to be a positive sign, she had additional concerns about the high number of women living in poverty who are still choosing abortion.
“This is a concern, as various factors contribute to these decisions – the day-to-day complexities of economic challenges, and the break-down of the family in our society, often leaving women to make these choices on their own,” Neher said.
“The response to this is to support and offer women alternative choices,” she continued, saying efforts to promote alternatives should include support for adoption, prenatal care, housing, and connecting women to programs that care for the dignity of both mother and child.
The number of abortions could potentially hit an even lower rate in the year to come. Of the abortions performed in 2014, about 1.3 percent took place after 20 weeks gestation. The practice of abortions after 20 weeks could be outlawed if the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act becomes a law. The bill has passed the House but is currently pending in the Senate.
While the CDC numbers do show an overall decline in abortions, the study is limited in its findings. States are not obligated to report their abortion data, and California, New Hampshire and Maryland did not include their numbers in the report.
Orange, Calif., Dec 7, 2017 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Dominic Dinh Mai Luong, the first Vietnam-born bishop to serve in the U.S., died Thursday, Dec. 6, at the age of 77.
He had served as an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Orange, one of the largest dioceses in the country, until his 75th birthday in 2015.
The future bishop was born Dec. 20, 1940 in Minh Cuong, about 50 miles from Hanoi in what was then French Indochina. He was the second of 11 children. The family was forced to move many times due to political instability, the Orange County Catholic reports.
He attended a French-Vietnamese school and then a minor seminary. In 1956, at the age of 16, his bishop sent him to the U.S. to continue his priestly formation. He would not return home until 1979 because of the Vietnam War.
Luong was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Da Nang on May 21, 1966 by Bishop James A. McNulty at the Basilica of Our Lady of Victory in Lackawanna, N.Y.
After ordination he received a bachelor’s degree in physics and master’s degrees in biology and psychology. He taught biology at a junior seminary in Buffalo, where he also served as associate pastor at Saint Louis Parish.
He served many refugees in New Orleans, where he would become director of the archdiocese’s Vietnamese apostolate and became founding pastor of Mary, Queen of Vietnam parish. He was incardinated into the Archdiocese of New Orleans in 1976.
He worked as director of the National Center for the Vietnamese Apostolate and directed the U.S. bishops’ pastoral care for migrants and refugees.
St. John Paul II named him a bishop in April 2003, as a response to the major growth of the Church in the Orange diocese and the growing numbers there of Catholics from Vietnam.
Bishop Luong had retired in 2015, but remained active at St. Bonaventure Church in Huntington Beach, Calif., which has a large Vietnamese community.
He had been writing a book on Marian apparitions in Vietnam and led the monthly Lectio Divina at St. Bonaventure.
Gallup, N.M., Dec 7, 2017 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two students at Aztec High School in Aztec, N.M., were killed in a shooting Thursday morning, and the local bishop has prayed for the victims and the community.
“St. Paul tells us in Romans 12:21 'Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.' In the coming days, many survivors and families will also be facing the fear and psychological effects that inevitably follow any tragedy. Please join me in offering prayers for the students and families,” Bishop James Wall of Gallup said Dec. 7.
“Please also join me in offering our support to the community of Aztec. We mourn the loss of life with you.”
The diocese is holding a prayer vigil at 4:30 this afternoon at St. Joseph parish in Aztec, about 120 miles northeast of Gallup.
The shooter is also dead. According to local outlet KRQE News 13, no other injuries have been reported, and the school has been evacuated.
Nearby schools, including those in Bloomfield, were put on lockdown as a precaution.
Please pray for the students, families, and community of Aztec. https://t.co/U0vhWduhN4
— Diocese of Gallup (@DioceseofGallup) December 7, 2017
Boston, Mass., Dec 7, 2017 / 03:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A recent Danish study shows that women on any kind of hormonal birth control are susceptible to an increased risk of breast cancer, upending the common belief that modern methods of hormonal birth control are safer than those of decades past.
The research published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine included a group of 1.8 million women between the ages of 15-49 over the course of more than ten years. Of the 1.8 million, there were 11,517 cases of breast cancer.
According to NPR, the leader of the study, Lina Morch, said it found “a roughly 20 percent increased risk [of breast cancer] among women who currently use some type of hormonal contraception” compared to those who used non-hormal contraceptives.
Additionally, the research found that for every 100,000 women on hormonal birth control, there are 68 cases of breast cancer every year, compared to 55 among those not using hormonal birth control.
The study highlights modern methods of birth control, including pills, intrauterine devices which release hormones, and other implants.
While the link to breast cancer from older methods of birth control was widely known, this study was able to provide evidence that even modern methods of hormonal birth control, such as hormone releasing IUDs, are still causing breast cancer in women.
“This is an important study because we had no idea how the modern day pills compared to the old-fashioned pills in terms of breast cancer risk, and we didn’t know anything about I.U.D.’s,” said Dr. Marisa Weiss, an oncologist, according to the New York Times.
“…if you add up all the millions of women taking the pill, it is a significant public health concern,” Weiss continued.
The study’s authors did note that factors such as physical activity, breast feeding, and alcohol consumption were not taken into account during the study, which could also be linked to the increase of breast cancer cases.
An epidemiologist also noted that the contraceptive pill is also linked to a reduced risk of ovarian, endometrial, and perhaps colorectal cancers.
The study, while providing crucial information on the increased risks of breast cancer with hormonal birth control usage, adds to the growing list of side effects common with even modern methods contraception.
A Swedish study released last spring found that birth control pills are linked with a decrease in women’s overall health and well-being. Last fall, another Danish study showed a strong connection between hormonal contraception and depression, particularly among teens.
Some women have opted for another form of birth control, without the hormonal side effects: metal coils. However, this form of contraception is not without its own set of risks, including chronic pain, nickel poisoning, exhaustion, and the risk of perforated organs.
While the Catholic Church upholds its long-taught beliefs that contraception is immoral because it divorces procreation from the sexual act, it does approve of Natural Family Planning, which allows couples to remain open to life.
More women are opting for NFP methods, or fertility awareness tracking, because of its hormone-free, health-conscious promise. Fertility awareness methods, such as the Creighton Model or Billings Method, are natural ways to achieve or delay pregnancy with an effectiveness rating competitive with the pill.
Cincinnati, Ohio, Dec 7, 2017 / 12:26 pm (CNA).- Many Catholics can name a priest who is renowned for his academic abilities, mission work, or inspiring homilies. But what about a priest who has received national attention for his baking skills?
Meet Father Kyle Schnippel, a pastor at two Cincinnati parishes who hopes his upcoming presence on The Great American Baking Show will offer non-Catholics insight into the human side of a priest’s life.
“My world is as much a foreign language to them as their world is to me. So what I wanted to do was just [be] a priest and [show] the joy,” Schnippel told CNA.
The third season of ABC’s American baking series will premiere on Dec. 7 at 9 p.m. EST. Throughout six episodes, the bakers will travel around the U.S. competing in holiday-themed challenges.
Schnippel is the pastor at Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann parishes in Cincinnati. Although baking had a large presence in his childhood home, his doughy adventures seriously took off about three years ago, when he decided to prepare the baked goods for his first parish festival.
As time went on, he began to bake more often, and found that he enjoyed sharing his gifts with others.
“It’s so much different than what we normally get to do as priests. We don’t normally get to see the results of what we do. With baking we get to see those results, smell those results,” and see the joy it can bring to people, he said.
Father Schnippel received a link to the show’s online application from a friend on Facebook. After providing detailed information on his baking experience and knowledge, the priest received a call a few months later, followed by a Skype interview.
He was then flown out to New Jersey, where he participated in a mock trail of the series’ competitions and presented his baked goods for the judges. Shortly after that, he received a call that he had been selected for the show.
At one point on the show, Father Schnippel said he was asked to prepare a recipe in advance that had a strong personal connection and coincided with the holiday season. Looking back on past Christmases, he decided to use his mother’s cinnamon roll recipe.
“Instead of cutting into individual cinnamon rolls, I rolled up the dough and cut it lengthwise to have all these pleats and braided that…It’s the same flavor, but I decorated it up, putting it together in a new way.”
Father Schnippel was not permitted to talk about the competition, but he had to explain his several-weeks absence to parishioners.
According to the Catholic Digest, he told them that he was going to be gone for an evangelization project – which wasn’t a lie.
“I made it a requirement that I be allowed to wear clerics on the show because it’s a reflection of who I am,” he told the Catholic Digest.
“After filming, one of the other contestants said something along the lines of, ‘Thank you so much for being such a joyful witness of your faith and the priesthood. Even though I am not Catholic, I got a sense of the joy that you have in who you are and what you do. Thank you for sharing that with us.’”
Father Schnippel told CNA that being on a baking show could also help break down stereotypes that some people have of Catholic priests, seeing them only as an austere religious figure.
“There is this impression in our world that priests are always serious, they only do religion. I wanted to break down that [perception], and say ‘hey, we are still real men. We still have interests and excitement in a lot of other ways’,” he said.
“You can take the priesthood very seriously, but also still have a lot of fun.”
When asked about his favorite moments from the show, he said that he enjoyed the positive feedback offered by the judges and the baking comradery that developed between the contestants.
Even during the competition, there were acts of encouragement and support, he said, pointing to moments when he was able to help other contestants remove food from the oven or stack items when they needed an extra hand.
“That came back to me later, just those memories of encouraging each other and supporting each other makes this particular show very positive for Christmas.”
And while he was not allowed to talk about the outcome of the competition, Fr. Schnippel expressed hope that his participation in the show would inspire people to face daunting challenges in their own lives.
“I hope that what people will take from the show is accepting a challenge where they may not think that they can do it. I never thought I would be able to get on this show. So taking the risk and doing something extraordinary, you never know what’s going to happen.”
Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2017 / 11:11 am (CNA).- This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The result of the case, which is expected to be delivered this summer, is likely to have considerable impact on the future of free speech, religious liberty, and free enterprise in the United States.
The case concerns a Christian baker, living and working in Colorado, who refused to make a custom wedding cake for a gay couple who planned to marry in Massachusetts. He offered them any other service his bakery provided, but would not make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage. He says that to custom create and bake their cake, a kind of creative expression, would be participation in something he finds morally objectionable.
The state of Colorado prohibits discrimination or denial of service based on sexual orientation, even though, at the time, gay marriage was not legal there.
The legal arguments of the case seem to hinge on whether cake-baking is a sufficiently artistic activity to qualify as protected speech. Nevertheless, the basic point which the Supreme Court will settle, one way or another, is whether “I can” also means “you must”
If, as we so often tell ourselves, we live in a tolerant and pluralistic society, it goes without saying that there will always be people whose ideas or actions we are obliged to tolerate, even as we are unwilling to celebrate them. Justice Kennedy acknowledged this in the decision of Obergefell vs. Hodges.
In this case, the bakery was not refusing to tolerate the couple’s wedding, it simply did not wish to participate. The baker did not try to stop the wedding from happening, or condemn it, he just declined to lend his talents to the celebration.
During Tuesday’s arguments, Justice Sotomayor raised a line of thought that would be disastrous to the idea of a mutually tolerant society, if it were to become the basis for the Court’s decision.
She observed that many US military bases are in relatively isolated parts of the country, many of which are predominantly Christian. This, she said, could mean that homosexual servicemen and women might be subjected to real hardship if they wish to get married and no local bakeries are willing serve their needs. Such an argument reveals the potential implications of a verdict against Masterpiece Cakeshop.
Suppose that rather, than a gay wedding, a servicewoman wants an abortion and there are only Christian doctors in the area. Could a doctor be coerced into aborting the child? Could a doctor be compelled to end a patient’s life if voluntary euthanasia becomes a legal right? Could Christian doctors be compelled to act against their conscience, and barred from practice if they refuse?
Chief Justice Roberts asked if, should the court find against Masterpiece Cakeshop, Catholic adoption agencies could be compelled to place children with same-sex couples. That question was answered in the affirmative ten years ago in the UK; every Catholic adoption agency in the country closed as a result.
The fact that the baker’s case is being heard at all, and that the bakery was sanctioned in the first place, demonstrates the extent to which some civil authorities are prepared employ the coercive power of the state to force a social consensus where none exists, or even needs to exist.
On Tuesday, Justice Sotomayor observed that while “we can’t legislate civility and rudeness,” we can legislate behavior. This seems to bespeak a view of the law in which ordinary social interaction is fair game for policing.
The argument that the state can, or even should, force individuals to act against conscience so as not to offend the “dignity” of others reflects a sad social outlook. It presupposes that two people with conflicting views cannot possibly coexist, that one must be subjugated to the other, and that it is the state’s function to pick the winner.
The state compelling an unwilling baker to make a wedding cake is akin to an adult forcing two children to play together. It is the very essence of overreaching state paternalism.
A free society presumes that people will disagree. But a community thrives when its members learn to freely accommodate each other, and to progress towards true consensus, ideally reflecting truth. Forcing a consensus where none exists only entrenches divisions, and it makes all of us answerable to the state, not each other, for the simple human task of getting along.
Ed Condon is a canon lawyer and legal commentator working in the UK and the United States. On Twitter he is @canonlawyered. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Catholic News Agency.
Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 6, 2017 / 12:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- This week, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and singer Katy Perry were awarded a joint $10 million sum for punitive damages over a church-owned hilltop property which was illegally sold to a developer in 2015 after the archdiocese had accepted an initial offer from Perry.
The property, a former convent belonging to the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters, is a church-owned estate under the care of Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. The archdiocese also has a current lease on one of the buildings on the property, which is used as a priests’ house of prayer. This lease has an additional 77 years left.
“I would like to reiterate my continued commitment to all of the Immaculate Heart sisters that the archdiocese will take care of them and ensure their well-being now and in the future,” said Archbishop Gomez when the controversy began in 2015.
Two of the nuns who previously lived on the property, Sister Rita Callanan and Sister Catherine Rose Holzman, made the invalid transaction with Dana Hollister, a restaurateur and developer who had plans to turn the property into a boutique hotel.
However, Hollister’s offer came after an initial $14.5 million offer from singer Katy Perry, which the archdiocese had accepted. Their deal additionally protected the house of prayer on the property, which was to be owned by the sisters.
After the sale to Hollister, of which the sisters received $44,000 and were promised an additional $9.9 million after three years, Hollister took possession of the property.
The archdiocese officially took action against the transaction June 19, 2015 with the claim that the sisters were not authorized to act as sellers of the property, since it is under the care of Archbishop Gomez. Additionally, any church sale of more than $7.5 million would require approval from the Vatican.
A jury found Hollister guilty last month of intentionally interfering with Perry’s first offer.
On Monday, the court sided with the local Church and with Perry, ordering Hollister to pay $3.47 million to the archdiocese and an additional $1.57 million to Perry for legal fees. Hollister was also charged with paying $10 million in punitive damages, which will be split between Archbishop Gomez and Perry.
Hollister has around $4 million in assets and will not be able to pay the fees in full, although her lawyer Michael Geibelson said Hollister could appeal the ruling.
Perry intends to move forward with the initial agreement of sale with the archdiocese.
Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 5, 2017 / 09:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- About 30,000 Catholic faithful walked the streets of Los Angeles in a Sunday Morning procession for Our Lady of Guadalupe nine days ahead of her Dec. 12 feast day.
“We give our hearts to the Virgin of Guadalupe and we ask her to always intercede for us, to hear us and pray for us,” Archbishop José H. Gomez said in his homily at the Dec. 3 Mass concluding the procession.
He said the Virgin Mary leads the faithful to the purpose of their journey on earth: “the encounter with her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
“To find God, to find Jesus! This is the beautiful role that Our Mother plays,” Gomez said.
The procession is the oldest religious procession in Los Angeles. It was established 86 years ago by Mexican Catholics who fled persecution by the Mexican government during the Cristero war.
This year’s mile-long procession began at the corner of Cesar Chavez Avenue and Ford Street in East Los Angeles. It featured colorful floats, equestrian groups, mariachi performers and indigenous dancers. Floats were judged and awarded prizes for depicting the procession’s theme, “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Encounter with Jesus.”
Catholic school students escorted an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe – an exact digital production of the original image that now hangs in Mexico’s basilica. The reproduction has been blessed and touched to the original image.
Among the participants was Rolando Portillo, a parishioner at Our Lady of Solitude Church in east Los Angeles.
Portillo was given special recognition at the celebration for his support of the community and of an orphanage in Mexico, the archdiocese reports.
“I thank her every day for watching over us, she is the True Mother, a real protector,” he said. “She brought me back to Jesus Christ when I was an addict running the streets 30 years ago.”
The procession ended at East Los Angeles College stadium, where Archbishop Gomez celebrated Mass.
He said in his homily that Our Lady of Guadalupe “guides us always into the presence of her Son, into the new encounter with Jesus Christ.
“So, today we profess our love for Our Mother. We thank her for her tender love for us – for our children and our families,” Gomez said.
Lectors at Mass included a survivor of the October Las Vegas shooting and a person who had received protected status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Before the Mass, actors re-enacted the miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary to the indigenous Mexican St. Juan Diego in 1531. The Virgin Mary left her image on his cloak, known as a tilma, and asked him to build a church on a hilltop.
Many parish communities worked together for the procession. Many participants in the procession wore red and green attire – the colors of Mexico’s flag.
As a preparation for the procession, the images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego visited 20 parishes in the Los Angeles archdiocese and the dioceses of Orange and San Bernardino. They visited five detention facilities in the Los Angeles archdiocese and were present for veneration at Santa Clara Cemetery in Oxnard during the Day of the Dead celebrations.
Manchester, N.H., Dec 5, 2017 / 04:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Seeking the renewal of culture and faith in New England, Thomas More College of Liberal Arts has launched a center that addresses crucial questions for Christians and aims to be a “vigorous public witness to the faith.”
“Its mission is a revival of Christian culture in New England: a region that has always been a seedbed of new ideas and ideals – a region whose the original European settlers first sought to build ‘a shining city on a hill’,” the New Hampshire college said Dec. 5.
The Thomas More Center for the Restoration of Christian Culture aims to support active involvement in the arts, in politics, in literature, in education, and especially in the life of faith.
The center aims to address “the crisis of a civilization that has drifted from the principles on which it was founded.” It will consider “the crucial questions of how mature Christians can live in freedom, and how people of faith can give new hope to a secularized society,” Thomas More College said.
The center will invite speakers, host seminars and organize conferences. It will encourage both intellectuals and civic leaders to participate in discussions and explore how to apply ideas.
Its statement of purpose says it will follow the example of St. Thomas More by protecting and encouraging healthy family life and by educating young people in the liberal arts. It will promote the active involvement of Christians in civic life, the preservation and enrichment of cultural heritage, and loyal defense of Catholic teaching.
The center aims “not to mourn the decline in society, but to build an outpost of civility: a community in which reasoned discussion, animated by Christian faith, can work toward a revival.”
Founding fellows at the center are Thomas More College president Dr. William Fahey; Dr. Anthony Esolen, a translator of Dante’s Divine Comedy and author of several books; and Catholic journalist and author Philip Lawler.
Esolen said culture is “disappearing from the West – certainly from the United States and Canada.”
“We are in the midst of massive culture amnesia,” he charged.
Lawler said he believes that New England could be a place for the emergence of “a new, positive and distinctively Christian vision of America.”
The region has “always been a nursery for new ideas and new movements.” He suggested the metaphorical pendulum of opinion has swung “so very far” in New England and prevailing opinion is “so far from the truths that are inscribed on the human heart” that a reaction is “inevitable.”
Fahey commented on the other fellows at the center: “Esolen is one of America’s foremost writers and a trenchant observer of our cultural malaise, and Lawler has had years of experience commenting on the ebb and flow of Catholic leadership within America and the wider world, always with a wise sense of how we should direct our attention and renew our conversation.”
Among the supporters of the center is Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute.
“The family needs defenders in all academic disciplines and from all walks of life,” Morse said. “May this Center become a focal point for a great renewal of all that is good and worthy in Christian civilization.”
Robert Royal, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Faith and Reason Institute, said the center is “one of the most promising new initiatives in decades.”
“Lots of people have written and spoken about what’s gone wrong with Catholic thought--as well as ways of life and community,” Royal added. “This is one of the few things I’ve seen that may actually do something about bringing them all together again in a faithful and viable whole.”
In Royal’s view, the regional approach of the center is important.
“Given the scope of problems we face, they can only be dealt with first at a more local level. I hope that this project not only grows rapidly, but that it is imitated and adapted to many other parts of the country, and the world,” he said.
Other backers of the project include Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute; Ignatius Press founder and editor Father Joseph Fessio, S.J.; author and former syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher; James Hitchcock, emeritus history professor at St. Louis University; Cardinal Newman Society president Patrick Reilly; Austin Ruse, president of the Center for Family and Human Rights; and Notre Dame architecture professor Duncan Stroik.